Best Interests of the Child: Meaning and Application in Canada

A Multi-Disciplinary Conference 

The Faculty of Law, University of Toronto
February 27 and 28, 2009

Sponsored by:
 Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children
University of Toronto Faculty of Law
David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights, University of Toronto
Justice for Children and Youth.

Supported by the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Department of Justice Canada

The Best Interests of the Child is one of the basic principles in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It has been interpreted and applied in different ways in a variety of different contexts in Canada. In 2003, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended that Canada work toward a common understanding and more consistent application of the principle, at the level of public policy formation as well as in decision-making for individual children.

The objective of this conference was to deepen understanding of the principle, share experiences of its application, and identify good practices for implementation in Canada. The outcome of the initiative was a more common understanding of the principle and improved implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Canada, including publication of significant findings.

The program

The conference combined a thematic approach with case studies and workshops for sectoral application. The first day offered panel discussions on major themes, such as:

  • Meaning and interpretation of “Best Interests of the Child”
  • Best Interests and the right to participate
  • Best Interests and other articles in the Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • Use of the Best Interests principle in relation to groups of children (i.e. as a tool of policy formation) as well as individual children
  • Best Interests in the context of Canada’s constitution

The second day was organized in workshops for in-depth dialogue on application of the principle in various areas, such as: health care, immigration, family law, youth justice, aboriginal issues, child welfare, education, and others depending on the level of interest.

See the conference website for more information, to register, or to propose a presentation.